At some point, most likely after the All-Star break, the Yankees are going to have to make a few decisions about their starting rotation. Bartolo Colon and Phil Hughes (you remember him?) will be coming of the disabled list, and there’ll be seven starters for five spots. So who will be the odd men out?
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Well, obviously CC Sabathia (10-4, 3.25 ERA) is the ace and whether you love him or hate him A.J. Burnett (7-6, 4.14 ERA) isn’t going anywhere. That leaves Ivan Nova (7-4, 4.26 ERA), Freddy Garcia (6-6, 3.30 ERA) and “feel good story” Brian Gordon (0-1, 5.23 ERA).
Let’s take care of the easy decision. Sorry, Mr. Gordon, but while your story of toiling in the minor leagues, converting from an outfielder to a pitcher to finally, at age 32, pitching in the show at Yankee Stadium, is the stuff of Kevin Costner movies, you’re out.
From here the decision gets more difficult. Nova has had his struggles, but he’s coming off two solid pitching performances. In Cincinnati, against one of the National League’s most potent offenses, he went eight innings, allowing just four hits and one run. Then this past weekend he allowed four runs on six hits in six innings in the Yankees’ win over Colorado. This outing was particularly impressive because Nova didn’t have his fastball, so he went to his secondary pitches: a curve, a slider and a change. That is the stuff of crafty veterans.
Taking Nova out of the rotation is only going to stunt his progression. He’s 24. There are going to be bumps in the road and pulling him isn’t doing anyone any favors in the long run. I for one am tired of seeing the Yankees lose patience with young pitchers. I’d love to see Nova stay in there and develop into a real homegrown piece of the rotation. Of course, if he starts to show any regression, you can bet the Yankees front office will replace him, especially since the Bombers are perpetually playoff-bound.
Garcia no longer has dominating stuff, but the Chief can still pitch. He’s fun to watch when he’s hitting his spots and mixing his speeds well. He’ll get into jams, but he finds a way to work out of them. What doesn’t bode well for Garcia is that his two outings this year against hated division rival Boston have been pretty atrocious. During a game in May, he allowed five runs in five innings. Then in a June start against the Red Sox, he lasted just 1.2 innings, throwing 46 pitches and giving up four runs. In two starts and one relief appearance against Boston, Garcia has allowed a total of nine earned runs over eight innings pitched. Believe me, the Yankees brain trust is aware of those numbers.
His starts against Boston aside, I do like Garcia and think he can help out the team, but my guess is he’s the one going to the bullpen as the long reliever. He’ll probably end up being the go-to-guy when Phil Hughes comes back and doesn’t yet have the length and strength to finish his games (much like Colon was there to mop up effectively for Hughes in the beginning of the season). Garcia will also be the guy who comes in when A.J. starts walking the ballpark or manages to throw 70 pitches in three innings.
In the end, a team can never have too much pitching and this will probably be a moot point as someone else will go down with an injury. Or it could get more intriguing (and crowded) if the Yankees pull off a trade by the deadline for an arm that they deem more appealing than their in-house options.